Fellowship Story Showcase
Mother Sues Child Guidance Center, Wants Psych Med Prescriptions Stopped
A San Bernardino mother files a law suit against a Child Guidance Center in Orange County.
"If you want to know something about humans, you can't just test on lab rats or even a monkey," said Robbie Bailey, a San Bernardino mother of two who has filed a law suit against the Child Guidance Center in Orange County for negligence and medical malpractice.
"Monkeys are monkeys, humans are humans. But a live human is not going to agree to be experimented on. So what's the next best thing? Fool them, trick them into believing they have something..."
Bailey filed the suit on behalf of her children who she said, are being unnecessarily and heavily medicated with psychotropics by the doctors at the Orange County center. She's not just fighting for her children however. She's fighting for all the others who are being taken advantage of, she said. Most of the families who deal with the center, a non-profit organization involved in addressing childhood behavioral problems, are low income foster children of all races but a lot of them are African American and Latino, she said.
"They study them like lab rats," said an emotional Bailey.
"And they feel comfortable with experimenting with them because they will most likely not speak up for themselves. The crazier they can make these kids, the more tests they run, the more money they can get, the more experiments they can perform."
Bailey's two children, a girl age 11 and boy, 8 are in the custody of her sister in law and have been for about two years, since she was forced to flee from a domestic violence situation. However, she feels that the aunt doesn't have the children's well being in mind and is only interested in receiving the county administered check that comes to her for guardianship. The situation is indicative of what's happening on a larger scale, according to the frustrated mother-caretakers willing to comply with anything, without question in order to receive foster care payment.
Bailey is fighting to get full custody of the two. Until then she is seeking an injunction against the Child Guidance doctors, social workers and officials so that they can not "practice on her children."
"I don't want money," she said.
"They can't even offer me $2 million in exchange for my children's well being. What I want is to take them down."
According to medical records from the CGC, Licensed Social Worker Lynda Akiyama described her 8-year-old boy last July, as being "easily frustrated, argumentative and intrusive."
Akiyama wrote in her progress notes that she had "encouraged the aunt to continue to set clear limits with the client, positively reinforce appropriate behaviors and provide logical consequences for inappropriate behaviors. Recommended avoiding arguing with the client [who] aunt reported is quite argumentative and 'wants to do things his way.'"
Psychiatrist Esther Park diagnosed the boy with mood disorder, attention deficit and hyperactive disorder and oppositional defiant disorder, characterized by extreme tantrums and arguing. She wrote him a prescription for Concerta, later reporting his response to the medication as "fair."
"My son has been suspended from school twice for violence and he seems to be getting worse," she said.
"They're giving him high amounts of Concerta and it takes him a while now to answer when you call his name and when you ask him questions."
Side effects of Concerta, a stimulant used for ADHD, include loss of appetite, difficulty falling asleep, irritability and /or moodiness. Some children may develop tics while on the medicine while those with a tic disorder may find that the tics worsen. Both growth and weight should be monitored, since weight loss can occur, and there is some evidence that stimulants may cause a slowdown in growth. Very rarely they may cause hallucinations or exacerbate manic symptoms These medications can increase blood pressure and pulse slightly, say medical experts.
Meanwhile her 11 year old is on Lexapro, a specific serotonin reuptake inhibitor and Risperdal, an antipsychotic for a diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder and depressive disorder. Side effects of Lexapro include appetite changes, nausea, headache, sweating and insomnia. Risperdal side effects include weight gain, sedation, dizziness, insulin resistance and muscle stiffness.
"I see my daughter is slow now. When she was with me, my daughter was a straight A student. She wanted to be a writer. Now my child is flunking her classes. She seems depressed. She seems highly anxious when I see her. She's not the same little girl," Bailey said.
Officials from the Children's Guidance Center were not willing to talk to the Sentinel, opting instead to let their attorneys speak for them. The lawyers had not returned calls from the Sentinel by press time.
According to the Assembly Committee on Human Services and the Assembly Select Committee on Foster Care, all medication given to foster youth is prescribed by a physician, approved by a judicial court order and entered into the CWS/CMS data system by a county social worker. Payment for medication comes through a federally funded source, Medicaid or in California's case MediCal.
But, said committee members during an informational hearing on foster youth and psychotropic medication in August 2006, "administration of psychotropic medication often occurs without the accompanying psychiatric therapy needed to ensure the health and mental health of the patient... foster youth are no exception. Federal funding does not provide additional dollars to cover the cost of transportation to and from the therapist, and the low reimbursement rates for physicians and psychiatrists have led to a severe shortage of medical providers for foster youth."
Meanwhile, Results of a study published in the December 2007 issue of Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, revealed that "concomitant psychotropic medication treatment is frequent for youth in foster care and lacks substantive evidence as to its effectiveness and safety."
The study took into account Medicaid data accessed from a July 2004 random sample of 472 medicated youth in foster care aged O through 19 years from a Texas. Psychotropic medication treatment data were identified by concomitant pattern: frequency, medication class, subclass, and drug entity and were analyzed in relation to age group; gender; race or ethnicity. Of the foster children who had been dispensed psychotropic medication researchers said, over 40 percent received 3 different classes of these drugs during July 2004, and about 15 percent received 4 different classes. The most frequently used medications were antidepressants (56.8 percent). attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder drugs (55.9 percent), and antipsychotic agents (53.2 percent). The use of specific psychotropic medication classes varied little by diagnostic grouping. Psychiatrists prescribed 93 percent of the psychotropic medication dispensed to youth in foster care. The use of 2 drugs within the same psychotropic medication class was noted in 22.2 percent of those who were given prescribed drugs concomitantly.
Emphasizing symptoms can lead to the diagnosis of more than one mental disorder in a patient, leading to greater use of combinations of drugs, according to the study.
But proponents of the medications say they are often necessary for children who come from traumatic situations. They help and give support to foster parents who are dealing with children who actually are anxious and depressed, some of them having experienced molestation, violence and severe verbal abuse.
"One possible explanation for the apparent overuse of psychiatric medications for children in the child welfare population is the high rate of mental illness found in this population," said Christopher Bellonci, M.D before the House Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support earlier this year.
"Studies indicate that 60-85 percent of the children being served by the child welfare system meet criteria for a DSM-IV Psychiatric diagnosis. In many cases this is related to the trauma that resulted in their removal from their family but in a significant number of cases the mental illness appears to have predated their removal. With such a high prevalence of mental illness in this population, screening for mental disorders is superfluous and instead providers time would be better served moving to a comprehensive assessment of the child and family's strengths and needs that can be used for treatment planning and service delivery.
"Early detection and assessment of the mental health needs of these children is critical in order for them to receive necessary mental health interventions..."
Bailey disagrees, at least in the case of her children and some of the others at the center.
"They're trying to put problems on the children that are not there so they can prescribe these medicines," said Bailey.
"But there's too much evidence that shows that before my children got into these doctors' hands and into this guardian's hands they were not like that. I compare it to the Tuskegee experiment. It's like they're playing [mad scientists] with these children. They're experimenting with them, seeing what the meds will do."